Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published May 23rd 2020
I have been meaning to write this for some time. I did a review of the autobiography and last album by Roger Daltrey and mentioned in that that my favourite Daltrey solo album barely got a mention in the book. I received a message asking me about it and promised I would do it as one of my classic albums. I even pulled out the CD and put it on my computer to remind me.
Fast forward and I recently wrote a column about songs musicians recorded about other musicians. As part of that was a song from this album and I had to hunt for it to listen to it. Why was it in the pile by my computer?... Oh yeah. That's right. Oops.
So, I bring you Under A Raging Moon by Roger Daltrey (1985).
Before I get started, be aware this is one of those albums where I like every song on it. I know some are not going to appeal to everyone and some are certainly not going to be regarded as all-time classics, but I like them all. None leave me flat. It's one of those CDs I can put on and just let play through – I don't need to fast-forward any tracks at all. But I will be honest about the weaker tracks.
I bought this in early 1986, based on wanting the track 'After The Fire'. I couldn't find the single, so I bought the cassette instead. When I got my CD player, this was one of the first CDs I bought as well, mainly because I'd come close to wearing out the cassette.
This album is all but forgotten, and none of the tracks seem to have lasted the test of time in the popular consciousness. The Who were on hiatus at this point in time, Pete Townshend was making some pretty good solo albums as well, and I guess everyone just assumed this album would be a filler one. Which is a shame. I really enjoy this album and I am sure most people who like the rock from the 80s (although not the poodle rock) will find enough here to enjoy as well.
'After The Fire' The opening track was the first single. It did mediocre, which surprised me. Written by Pete Townshend and filled with intelligent lyrics, this song is about coping with getting older and feeling that maybe life hasn't gone the way you would like. I have heard that it was meant to be a Who song, but for whatever reason it ended up here. Daltrey always inhabited Townshend's lyrics perfectly, and this is no exception. I have a feeling if this had been released under the name of "The Who", it would have been a hit. As it is, this is brilliant.
This song reminds me of something about this album. Many 80s albums have a distinct drum sound, often because Phil Collins played the drums or they tried to copy him, or they used those early, tinny drum machines. The drummer for the majority of this album is Mark Brzezicki from the band Big Country, and so it does not have that overly dated sound. Another positive.
'Don't Talk To Strangers' This is a standard 1980s mid-paced rock track. I do like it, but it is one of the weaker tracks in this collection. This is also one of the few songs where I prefer the verses to the chorus. There is more going on there. And the guitar work from Robbie McIntosh is really strong.
'Breaking Down Paradise' Another mid-paced track, but I prefer this one to the previous track for the way Daltrey uses his voice and the layering of percussion through it. With a depressing lyric – the song was written by Russ Ballard – this is a strong track.
'The Pride You Hide' We hit the first ballad of the album. This song has a decent lyric, but what really makes it is the choral backing, the multitude of voices that sing behind the "Lord knows…" and does their "…ahhh…" at the bridge. It just adds a depth. And we have another good guitar solo. Yeah… nice.
'Move Better In The Night' One thing a few Daltrey solo albums have suffered from is lyrics that are rather weak. Well, this song is one of those. It is saved by Daltrey's singing voice and some good music, but of all the tracks on this album, this one sounds the most "80s", so it could possibly be one that ticks my own personal boxes.
'Love Me Like You Do' Not to be confused with Ellie Goulding's 2015 hit, this is a better song, a track that teeters on being a ballad. The lyrics are decent again, and it is a smooth listen. This, by the way, was a bonus track for the cassette and included on the CD; apparently it did not feature on the original vinyl pressing of the album.
'Let Me Down Easy' Side two (on the cassette) opens with a song co-written by Bryan Adams… and it bears more than a passing resemblance to 'Somebody' from the Reckless album. Not that that's a problem; this is a good enough rocker. But it does have that Adams sound, no doubt about it.
'Fallen Angel' This song tries to be a power ballad but it just lacks that bombast needed. This is the second song that is a weak one in the collection. I, of course, don't mind it, but the one other person I know who shares an affection for this album calls it too dull with guitars that are "just there". And that is probably a fair criticism.
'It Don't Satisfy Me' Another song with some lyrical deficiencies, I'm afraid, but there is no denying the enthusiasm Daltrey throws into it. And the chorus has quite the sing-along feel to it. I can actually imagine this being sung by a large crowd. And it has a nice harmonica solo. I miss good harmonica solos.
'Rebel' Our second Bryan Adams co-write (both with Jim Vallance, his regular writing partner). This one, though, is not a re-tread of an Adams song and is one of the strongest songs on the album. Its chorus gives Daltrey's voice room to shine, and he takes it up with gusto. A superb song and I thought at the time it should have been a single.
'Under A Raging Moon' While this song is listed as being 'For Kit' on the album sleeve, it is clearly about the deceased Who drummer Keith Moon. Starting with a very Who-like organ, going into the lyrics (co-written by John Parr) that are deep and affectionate, this builds like a Keith Moon tempest. And then the ending… holy cow. Drummers giving their tribute solos. In order, they are: Martin Chambers (The Pretenders), Roger Taylor (Queen – and the best solo here), Cozy Powell, Stewart Copeland (The Police), Zak Starkey (son of Ringo Starr), Carl Palmer (ELP), Mark Brzezicki (Big Country), and then Zak and Mark do the outro. At over 6 and a half minutes, I could listen to this track over and over. "Do you remember me? Because I remember you…" One of the best closing tracks of an album and Daltrey's finest hard rock performance away from The Who.
And that is a classic album that has been forgotten over the years and remains all but ignored by people who enjoy classic rock. I do not understand why. At the very least, 'After The Fire', 'Rebel' and 'Under A Raging Moon' deserve to be better known.
I would encourage you to at least give this one a go. I don't think you will be disappointed.